Categories > Original > Fantasy > Tradewinds 07 - "Away From Home"


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

sleep of the just

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG - Genres: Fantasy,Horror,Sci-fi - Published: 2008-12-13 - Updated: 2008-12-13 - 1705 words - Complete

Some hours later, Shades woke up from more of the disconcerting dreams which still haunted him ever since the night of the experiment.

Another terrible dream… he thought, as images swam vaguely through his head. But also intriguing, as most of the ones before it. Especially the way, for their short duration, they seemed to tie both his friends and events together in some way that eluded his waking mind. He could always feel the pieces falling away from him as he drifted upward toward consciousness again. And it always frustrated him, almost as much as being trapped and powerless in this limbo in the first place.

Since Max was still asleep, he crawled out of bed and turned on some animé on low volume.

Though Max still slept like a log, he accidentally woke Bandit, who curled up next to him as he watched. Shades found himself thinking about his first morning here, wishing for feline company. Max’s companion filled a Bandit-shaped hole in his life he had nearly forgotten after all these years.

Even as he settled in, an odd thought popped into his head. Before, he had had his hands full with the events of the past day, but now that he thought about it, he found himself wondering why he hadn’t been killed for warning Max about the curse, like the repairman had that fateful night. After thinking it over for a while, all he could come up with was that the curse, that the Management, had not yet fully claimed him. He still remembered DJ’s chilling admonition (Don’t sign anything!), that perhaps there was something more to it, that though trapped here he was still his own, unlike so many before who had been made into this place’s bitch.

With no definitive answers to any of his questions, Shades grew tired of turning them over in his head. For what had to be the millionth time in the last three weeks, he wished his friends could be here. With him, that was, rather than in this particular place. He wanted to have fun, was sick of brooding about things that were beyond his control, but something held him back.

It was then that the voice of Douglas MacLean spoke up. Life isn’t always fair. Shades couldn’t even remember how many times Dad had told him that. Just enjoy the good times while they last, Dex.

His father’s words made up his mind. As selfish as they sounded, even to himself, for the time being he would throw it all and just have some fun.

His mind started making parallels to all the trips he had been on when he was younger. How often most of the details were beyond his control, yet he just rode it out with a carefree childish stoicism he now realized he had lost somewhere along the way. Of motels and people’s houses, tents and sleeping bags, friends and annoyances, of having no say in most of it, but still treating it as an adventure.

Of waking up in the top bunk of a family friend’s camper van in the morning, after spending all day— and most of the night— at the State Fair when he was in the first grade, setting off a chain of favorite childhood memories, all leading back to how happy he had been back in the day…

…The sun shone that spring morning with a crystal clarity Shades would notice, years from now, had somehow faded from things as time moved on.

Unlike when Dad was stationed in bigger towns, neither of his parents seemed to worry as much about him wandering around Lakeside. Back in those days, this place was scarcely even known to the outside world,
no trespassing and beware of dog signs the exception rather than the rule, and fences were just fun obstacles in his exploration and adventures. Even when he was older, he would never tire of walking the roads and hidden paths of this once quiet mountain town.

The sun caught glints and flashes off the lenses of the cool fold-up sunglasses he had talked Dad into buying him. Back before he was “Shades”— a name that would someday occur to him after seeing his reflection in a car’s side window, one he wouldn’t start demanding of the world until after his father disappeared— before he won the right to wear his namesake style in class, he was just Dexter MacLean. Dex to his friends. Once he hung his jacket in the locker room, he would take off his cool new specs, fold them up and stick them in their case, instead donning the dorky-looking glasses he would wear until he was almost in middle school, and go back to being just plain Dexter.

But for now, his mind would never deign to dwell on such things. Not with such a glorious morning to walk to school through. With so many paths to choose from, boredom was hardly a possibility once he went beyond his front door.

While others were standing around waiting for the bus— the crowded, noisy bus that would drag them all the way out to Somers and back before dropping off most of his classmates— he would walk a combination of main roads and secret trails to get to school. A major upside he would notice when he was older was that these walks never failed to put him in a good mood, even before school. Next year, though, he would have no choice but to ride the bus to Somers, but for now he was enjoying his final days in the third grade to the fullest.

This morning, he had taken a particularly winding road, cutting through a couple empty yards— not that anyone minded in those days— in a mostly downhill direction. Though variety was the spice of life with so many possible paths to take, he often preferred to use the hidden ways, the more woods the better. Once he got down to the highway, he cut behind the buildings that lined the highway, crossing a plank for a bridge over a deep ditch of spring runoff, entering the school grounds from the back of the playground.

He looked at his watch. Oh-eight-hundred hours exact. Still on time.

If he could find him in time, he would even talk to Darek for a few minutes before the bell. While everyone else went along with the script, these two played their own games, by their own rules. Before there was John or the band, before Tom, even before Arthur, there was Darek.

He first met Darek Chambers last year, when his family first moved to Lakeside. Their second grade teacher chose Darek to show him around on his first day, and they had become fast friends ever since. Little did he know his friend would move to Kalispell over the summer, then disappear altogether, but for now they were friends forever, as all childhood friends truly are.

Spotting his friend over near the outbuilding next to the gym, Dex took off his backpack. Digging past yesterday’s homework, he fetched out some Easter candy. Though food was frowned upon outside of the cafeteria without the teachers’ permission, he and Darek and some others had started conducting an underground candy trade during recess. It had all started last fall, with Halloween candy, and had experienced a revival of sorts after Valentine’s Day. One thing he had discovered this year, and would later cite as an inspiration for his and his friends’ Black Ops when he was older, was the thrill of flying below radar.

“Hey Dex!” Darek greeted him, backpack in hand. Though he often scoffed at the whole contraband candy thing and how silly it was, it somehow never stopped him from
doing it.

“What’s up, Darek?”

“Whoa! Cool shades! Where’d you get those?...”

…At some point in Shades’ remembrances, Max woke up and joined him watching the toob. He had seen the screen when they first settled in, but had been too lost in all of the confusion of the past day to ask Shades about it. What he now saw totally floored him. Like some of the other devices his friend had shown him, the TV looked like it came straight out of Tranz-D.

Or straight outta hell, if you asked Justin.

The stories themselves varied, most of which was unfamiliar to him, which made sense, as Shades had explained that their origins lie in another world. The Islanders, collectively, had accumulated many tales from many lands, only a fraction of which he had heard in his eleven years there, most of them adapted from Outlander accounts. Still, he was moved by it all in a way that his friend found at once amusing and intriguing, shocked, fascinated, full of questions (only some of which Shades had answers to), once he even laughed so hard he almost rolled off the bed, to Bandit’s perplexity.

As Max and Shades watched this endless menagerie of images with his new friend, he felt a growing desire to leave it all behind. For a time, something inside of Max had simply snapped, and like his friend, Max shrugged his load. Consciously made the decision to let the burden slide from his shoulders, the stress of problems he could do anything about, the past, the future; for now just living from moment to moment.

So, for a few hours, the two of them experienced Away From Home Syndrome to the fullest, and Bandit enjoyed the first peace and quiet he had seen in almost two days.

Later, though, while Shades continued to chill with Bandit, Max found his thoughts turning back to Justin’s unknown plight.

Soon it was almost driving him to distraction. He kept reminding himself, as Shades assured him, that the guards were only programmed to capture and hold, but still he worried. Though he had never met the Junkyard Dogs, or the Enforcer, the primal, and by now rather unnerved, part of his mind suspected that that place still had claws and fangs that had not yet presented themselves to him.
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